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NOAA and EPA threaten to yank $2 million in water quality enhancement funds – claims state not properly enforcing its own pollution control rules

NOAA/EPA - Oregon flunks salmon protection test - faces at least two million dollar grant cut back.

NOAA/EPA – Oregon flunks salmon protection test – faces at least two million dollar grant cut back.

In about five months, Oregon’s two million dollars in grant money from NOAA and the EPA to help it run its salmon stream protection program, could dry up. Threatening to pull the money, NOAA and the EPA contend that Oregon has not put enough effort into ensuring that logging, farming and herbicide/pesticide use don’t cause undue pollution to Oregon coastal rivers and streams where salmon, Coho especially, live and propagate. NOAA/EPA says Oregon has not set up sufficient enforcement nor has it gathered enough baseline data on coastal rivers and streams to gauge whether the state’s pollution control restrictions are even working.

Governor John Kitzhaber’s Natural Resources Policy Advisor Richard Whitman denied the allegations, adding that Oregon has always been a leader in environmental protection including water quality issues for state rivers and streams.

However, by order of a federal judge, a 90-day clock is ticking for public comment about Oregon’s coastal stream protection program along the Oregon Coast. Those who would like to either attack, defend or simply comment on the state’s track record in logging, farming and pesticide/herbicide usage and their impacts on Oregon’s salmon spawning streams and other streams that feed them, have 90 days to file their comments.

NOAA/EPA contend that while Oregon was a leader in such environmental protection matters, it’s no longer the case. They cite protection laws in Washington and California that are much better enforced compared to those of Oregon.

NOAA/EPA says Oregon agreed to upgrade their waterway protection program along the coast but has done little to ensure that rules and regulations are being followed. In a lawsuit filed by Northwest Environmental Advocates, which prevailed over the state in their lawsuit – the judge ordered an open comment period to allow the public to recommend whether NOAA/EPA should cut Oregon off from two million dollars a year in financial assistance to more properly manage river and stream tributaries affected by logging, farming and chemical sprays.

NOAA/EPA cites poorly constructed logging roads, both old and newer, built in high slide prone areas and too close to streams that provide habitat for salmon. Mud and sediment runoff from logging roads and clearcuts coats the bottom of those streams thereby damaging spawning gravels for Coho and other fish. The agencies also cite many instances where farming and livestock operations allow animal waste and other pollution to get into coastal waterways which also damages fish habitat. And NOAA/EPA contend the state is not doing enough to ensure that the use of herbicides and pesticides are administered correctly and that their residues are kept out of coastal waterways.

We’ll see what happens over the next few months.

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